Truck development is moving forward fast and it looks as if the trucks of the future will use electric power to transmit energy into the drive train, it’s just a matter of time, so when will axles be electric?
Here in Australia there is no mandated drive towards zero emission trucks, but in the rest of the world there is. We are technology takers, due to our small fleet size, so the new fuel cell and chargeable electric trucks will make their way to our shores eventually.
One of the big changes will be the removal of the diesel engine from the truck design. Instead, the smaller electric motor will provide motive power. The question is where to put the motor? It does not need to be in the engine bay, it can go where the transmission currently sits or anywhere else.
The overall consensus seems to be moving towards the electric motor becoming part of the drive axle. Then the power source simply has to send electricity down wires to the rear axle. This will free up a a lot of real estate in the truck, which currently has to deal with drive shafts, exhaust treatment systems etc.
On smaller trucks all of the available space is likely to become home to getting as many batteries as possible. Giving the truck as much range as is practical. On long distance trucks the most likely solution at the moment is hydrogen powered fuel cells, which will fill the void.
We first saw the Blue Horizon system from Meritor at last year’s Brisbane Truck Show and we can expect the first examples to start to arrive in Australia, in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, in the US, Allison is introducing the new AXE Series, a fully integrated electric powertrain system designed to fit inside a standard frame along the axles of commercial trucks; the AXE Series features electric motors, a two-speed gearbox, oil coolers and pumps. The offering also includes power electronics for a complete powertrain solution.
Meanwhile in Europe, eTransport is a new concept from BPW, an electric axle which has been developed specifically for manufacturers of distribution vehicles. The axle, electric drive and energy storage form a system in eTransport that can be integrated into different vehicle models. The drive is emission-free, recovers the braking energy and improves the manoeuvrability of trucks by actively supporting the steering.